Steve Alford had a teleconference from Hawaii this morning, where the UCLA men’s basketball team will practice again before flying back later today. The Bruins (3-3) are coming off a fourth-place finish in the Maui Invitational, but have already lost three games in November for the first time since 2011.
They return to Pauley Pavilion on Sunday at 4 p.m. against Cal State Northridge. Some quick notes from Alford:
» Senior big man Tony Parker called out the team’s toughness after an 80-77 loss to Wake Forest on Wednesday night. While Alford said some of that was due to frustration, he didn’t disagree with the sentiment either.
“We’ve got a great group of young men,” Alford said. “They’re fun to coach. But we definitely have to get tougher.”
He also gave two main reasons for UCLA’s 19-point blowout loss to Kansas on Tuesday. The first was fatigue: The Jayhawks were coming off a 51-point win over Chaminade, while his team had just held off UNLV in a two-point squeaker. The second?
“We’re not as good as Kansas right now,” he said. “We’re just not.”
The Bruins host No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 3, travel to No. 10 Gonzaga on Dec. 12, and play ninth-ranked North Carolina at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn a week after that.
Alford again remained hopeful that UCLA’s early struggles will pay off later on in the season. He also pointed out that the parity across college basketball. Monmouth, which upset the Bruins to open the season before falling to USC, notched its first-ever win over a ranked team last night by knocking off No. 17 Notre Dame.
» Forward Gyorgy Goloman has been sidelined by a stress fracture since Oct. 11. He was given a recovery timetable of six to eight weeks then, but will be reevaluated by a doctor on Tuesday. The team is hoping to get a more precise return date after that.
» Goloman’s return would be a boon for a UCLA team that has yet to figure out its identity. The Bruins have opened the season by playing two centers together in Parker and sophomore Thomas Welsh. While that’s been reasonably effective on the boards and on offense, having a 7-footer next to the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Parker also creates defensive liabilities.
Alford said he’s still evaluating how to best use his players, and could try lineups that feature Goloman, sophomore Jonah Bolden — a former four-star recruit who has looked very rusty — or true freshman Alex Olesinski. All three stand at least 6-foot-10, but more resemble the stretch forward archetype than a traditional big.
“Playing ‘big-big,’ we’ve got to get better defensively,” Alford said, “or it’s something we have to play less of.”
» UCLA announced that it will participate in the 2016 Wooden Legacy tournament, as part of an eight-team field that will play in Orange County over the the Thanksgiving weekend. The other seven teams in the bracket are CSUN, Dayton, Nebraska, New Mexico, Portland, Texas A&M and Virginia Tech.
Games on Thursday, Nov. 24 and Friday, Nov. 25 will be held at Titan Gym on the Cal State Fullerton campus. The final round will tip off on Sunday, Nov. 27 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.